part of their reflection, the Winter Meeting participants created
a master list of steps and considerations for creating useful and
exciting field experiences. The following synthesizes the participants'
lists and shows some of the connections with the SCIMAST-sponsored
Before going into the field, students need to understand the concepts
underlying the experience. The site should be chosen to help students
realize the relevance of their class work to field work. The teacher
will pay close attention to the many details that ensure a safe
and inclusive learning environment. Students also need an age-appropriate
grounding in the topic and understanding of the objectives of the
Issues around curriculum and instruction
Other Details of Planning
- The goals of the field experience are clearly articulated.
- Ascertain the prior understandings of the students.
- Students understand the materials and instruments that will
be used in the field. Let them "play" with the items to learn
how to use them before they need to take important field readings.
- Students understand what is expected of them and how their learning
in the field will be evaluated in the classroom. To accomplish
this goal, students may need to see the actual assessment task
and rubrics that will be used during or at the end of the project.
- If a field journal is required, students need to know what expectations
the teacher has for it and how it fits into their evaluation.
- Decide how students should work--individually, in self-selected
groups, in assigned groups. Students working in groups will benefit
if different learning and working styles are found in each group.
- Logistics must be clear: transportation, food, water, and safety
concerns should be anticipated and answered. How many adults and
drivers will be needed?
- What kinds of permissions, parental and administrative, are
- Guides or docents at the site need to understand not only the
subject matter but also how children learn. Examples of class
work by the students will help them understand the level of the
- Safety requirements of the site have to be clearly explained.
- Do some students have special learning needs? Will some require
extra help in the field? Are special education students included
in this trip? Will other classes be invited to go along?
SCIMAST field experience. Much of what would have happened
earlier in class had to occur on the first day of the Port Aransas
meeting: some basic understandings of the area and the types of
observations to be expected were established. Since the participants
were all knowledgeable teachers and principals, conceptual information
could be presented briefly. They did need to learn how to use some
of the instruments--field scopes, the PVC surveying equipment. SCIMAST
staff had assumed that participants would know how to use compasses,
but some pointed out to us that they could have benefited from time
playing with the instruments to refamiliarize themselves.
The SCIMAST staff made a special point of making sure the objectives
of the meeting and the means of assessing learning were clearly
articulated for all participants. The staff also devoted time to
ensuring the work groups came together and split in such ways that
each participant had time to be exposed to many different viewpoints
and could check back with a stable group to share new learning.
At the Site
Once the class is at the site, other considerations come into play,
but the teacher remains focused on ensuring that the students have
the time and access to increase their understanding of the topic.
Connections between curriculum and field observations will be strengthened
in the field.
- All students have the opportunity to make meaningful observations.
- Record data in many ways--written notes and, where possible,
tape recorder, videos, still photography, and collected artifacts
- Stick to a pre-arranged schedule as much as possible but remain
adaptable and ready for the serendipitous.
- Make sure equipment and materials are available, useful, and
- Provide opportunities for hands-on, active, and open-ended learning.
- Make sure knowledgeable people and other sources are accessible
to the students.
- Do not be afraid to give occasional small lectures if they will
advance student learning.
- Leave time for questioning and exploring.
- Make sure objectives have been addressed.
SCIMAST field experience. The work in the bay and on the
beaches was hands-on with the objective of stimulating observations
and reflection. Participants handled creatures and materials pulled
up from the bottom of the ocean and walked the shoreline noting
what had been left there and reflecting on the meaning of this material
for the ecosystem.
The knowledgeable staff of the Marine Institute was always available
to the Winter Meeting participants. Frequently, these marine scientists
stopped exploring to explain a fine point to the whole group. SCIMAST
staff recorded the experience with still photos, video camera, and
written notes. Participants took written notes and were encouraged
to use any other methods they could. Many of them carefully collected
specimens to take back to their classes.
Back in the Classroom
Returning to school should resemble a field scientist's return
to the laboratory. The project is not over; it has merely entered
a new phase--one that involves experimenting, reflection, and discussion.
While assessing may have been ongoing in the field, more formal
assessments occur in the classroom.
- Check to see if objectives were addressed.
- Begin student analysis and interpretation of the data.
- Some general discussion will help the entire class learn from
others' experiences and observations.
- Student learning should be allowed to branch off into other
- Incorporate field experience into subsequent curriculum and
apply it to other subjects and situations.
- Make sure the rest of the school knows about the field experience
and offer to work with other teachers.
- Arrange for assessment, evaluation, and closure.
- Show relation of this experience to future class work.
- Ask students to suggest improve-ments for next year's field
- Reflect on your ongoing assessment of the whole experience.
How can you make the experience better next time?
- Set aside time for students to write thank-you notes to parents
who drove or accompanied the class, guides, docents, and any other
people involved with the field trip.
SCIMAST field experience. The participants could not return
to the classroom as a group, but they did analyze and interpret
their observations both in the field and later in work groups. Reflection
and discussion were scheduled into the agenda and the learning was
applied in the simulated town meeting. The participants discussed
the ways their learning would affect their teaching and the conduct
of their classrooms, how professional development would be affected
by this experience, and how they could share what they had experienced
with teachers in their home sites.